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What is the meaning of the Shalom Aleichem hymn?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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“On Friday Night, a person is escorted home from synagogue by two angels, one good and one evil*. When he comes home and finds the candles burning, the table set, and the beds made, the good angel declares ‘may it be G-d’s will that the next Shabbat be the same,’ and the evil angel reluctantly answers ‘Amen.’ If [the home is] not [prepared for Shabbat], the evil angel proclaims ‘may it be G-d’s will that the next Shabbat be the same,’ and the good angel must answer ‘Amen’” (Talmud, Shabbat 119b).


Before the Friday night meal, we welcome these angels by reciting the Shalom Aleichem (Peace unto you, ministering angels...) hymn.


 





*An angel, by definition, is a servant of G-d, who carries out his Master’s will. “Evil” angels are thus called because their mission is to punish those who defy G-d’s commandments, but this too is at the Creator’s behest. Perhaps this is why we say “Peace unto you, ministering angels,” including both angels in our warm greeting, for we recognize that even the “evil” angel is merely a servant who is faithfully discharging his duty.


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COMMENTS

Words

Posted by: Derek Rumpler, Oil City, PA on Apr 20, 2006

I think I've heard this song before. Can someone please post the words?

Sincerely,

Editor's Comment

It's available at http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=258650.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.